The HR Specialist: California Employment Law

It’s expensive to train employees, especially if the content is highly specialized. Smart employers protect their investments by getting employees to agree to repay training costs if they leave soon after receiving the valuable benefit. Just don’t mess with the employee’s final paycheck.

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News to note if you work in a unionized workplace: Health benefits are still a legitimate bargaining chip. Members of the University Professional & Technical Employees Union recently agreed to shoulder more of the health insurance burden in exchange for better performance-based pay.

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Here’s something to include in your regular supervisory training sessions: Remind everyone that they should banish from their vocabularies any slang or colorful terminology that hints at age discrimination. “Ageisms” can make legitimate business decisions like altered compensation plans, new job duties and other necessary changes look like pretexts for getting rid of older workers.

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With co-worker harassment, employers are responsible only if they already knew the harasser was trouble because other employees had already complained about harassment, or the harassed employee had previously complained that she felt uncomfortable or harassed. Fortunately, employers don’t have to be clairvoyant.

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The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has concluded that a former employee can’t use his physical condition at the time of trial to prove he is disabled. Instead, he must show that, at the time he was employed, he had a condition that substantially limited a major life function. The ruling is good news for employers.

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For a while, there was some doubt that outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger could legally force unionized state employees to accept furloughs ordered to ease California’s budget crisis. Now the California Supreme Court has ruled that the furloughs were legal.

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A federal jury has awarded approximately $4 million to a former Los Angeles Police Department officer who claimed the LAPD fired him in retaliation for testifying in a wage-and-hour case.

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The federal OSHA says California’s occupational safety and health program is deficient. The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) disagrees—although officials admit there’s always room for improvement.

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The state Office of the Attorney General has filed a lawsuit charging eight Southern California car washes with stiffing workers out of wages, failing to pay the minimum wage, reneging on overtime pay and denying legally mandated breaks.

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Many employers still don’t realize it: If one of your employees is called to active military service that lasts 180 days or more, you can’t summarily terminate that employee once he is back at work. Even if he left as an at-will employee, for one year he can only be discharged for cause.

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